Mailbag: Still steaming mad about last week

17 Comments

With the questions (understandably) a little bit more filled with frustration than usual, it seems more than a few of you are searching for answers to last week’s loss still.

I’m not sure I can provide those, but I’ll do my best to eat a little crow, answer a few questions, and get everybody ready for the final home game of the season.

First, on to this nonsense:

 

irishdodger: Since we fans keep seeing reports (via tweets & radio interviews w/ Chris Mortensen, etc) regarding Brian Kelly being of interest to both NFL teams & Florida, why hasn’t anyone that covers ND addressed him directly about the subject?

yaketyyacc: Do you think all this talk about Kelly moving on is founded by the hopes of Notre Dame fans?

scoli: Do you believe it is possible that the melt down over the last 4 or five games is related to CBK spending too much attention on possible new job and not enough on preparing himself and his team for the upcoming games?

mediocrebob: Could you remind these people that there is no better option and that they’ll feel really stupid when they realize Kelly was a blessing when the Irish are stuck with some unproven no-name coach and losing consistently?

You guys will probably never guess where I come out on all of this. But it’s closer to Bob, especially when you look at the coaching candidates that currently exist.

Brian Kelly was asked about the Florida job on Thursday, especially after his name was mentioned a few times this week in connection with the high-profile job opening. He laughed at the question, and I think that’s his honest opinion

A lot of people have speculated about the “agent connection,” with CAA’s Trace Armstrong repping a lot of the usual suspects in all of this reporting, but I don’t know why anybody would go to Gainsville and try to rebuild that mess when they have a team that should be very, very good in 2015 in front of them.

(As someone pointed out, SI’s Pete Thamel, probably the most plugged in college football writer working, essentially said the same thing earlier this week.)

Getting back to the candidates, who do you want to take this job if Kelly leaves? Butch Jones? Dan Mullen? Ask Oklahoma fans how frustrated they are with Bob Stoops. And clamoring for guys like Urban or Gruden or anybody from that old list is frankly a waste of time. Winning at Notre Dame is a lot tougher than just about every other place in the country.

The issue I run into with a lot of these arguments is that every fanbase has things they hate about a coach. From playcalling right down to what they wear to press conferences. So while Kelly’s red zone run game might be the thing that makes you want him out, wait until you see Coach X or Coach Y in the same situation. He won’t be perfect, either.

 

don74: Assuming Kelly stays will there be a shakeup with the assistants at the end of the season?

I don’t know the answer to that, but it’ll certainly be something to watch once recruiting shakes out and the Irish transition from the season into spring football.

I think you can rule out any changes with Brian VanGorder or Matt LaFleur. They are just finishing up their first year in the program. But Kelly’s been very loyal to his staff and the same could be said in return. I tend to think only a new job opportunity (a low-level head coaching position) feels like a chance for things to change.

 

idratherbeinsouthbend: Given that we are fully engrossed in the CFB playoff system now, how long will it be before (A) the playoff expands and (B) the mid majors have their own championship?

Again, this is a big issue that we’ll be discussing just about every year until it actually expands. But the TV contract is supposed to dictate that this will stay a four-team playoff, though there are a lot of influential people thinking it needs expansion. (Brian Kelly is on the record thinking eight teams is better.)

ACC commissioner John Swofford talked about this earlier this week, with ESPN reporting this quote:

“The question is asked a lot, ‘Why not eight?’ or ‘Will it become eight in a few years?’ I can tell you why not eight, right now: The presidents made the decision as to how far we can go with the playoff, and the bookends are exams in December, and the presidents don’t want football to become a two-semester sport. Those concerns are education-based. So I think they’re appropriate.”

 

danirish: Which of the three MUST the Irish fix immediately: Turnovers, allowing a ton of points, or special teams.

Turnovers. And it’s not even close.

Turnovers are pretty much the root of all evil in football. And it’s pretty clear that when the Irish started turning the football over left and right, winning got a lot harder to do.

This defense — especially a defense without Sheldon Day, Joe Schmidt, a half-strength Cody Riggs and Jarron Jones — and the rest of the guys mostly kids, needs all the help it can get. And turning the ball over and putting the pressure on them isn’t the way to win the next two football games.

How you fix that immediately? I’m not exactly sure.

 

blackirish23: Can the argument also be made that the defense has essentially held up to it’s end of the bargain due to what BK expected at the beginning of the season, and that it’s our Offense that has been the let down, especially when the defense does it’s job (once in a great while) and gets the ball back either via turn over or on downs?

I think you’re on to something. And that’s essentially what Kelly has said after the team’s three losses. In the eyes of this coaching staff, the offense needs to beat opponents with the defense doing it’s best to get stops and create turnovers.

But nobody saw this rash of turnovers coming — especially last week in the inexplicable manner that they happened.

So Kelly acknowledged that this week, and I think we’re going to see the Irish offense, but run in a more conservative manner, trying to take the risk out of things.

 

billtetley53: How long do you think it is going to take this fanbase to realize that it will take a perfect storm for ND to make the playoff ?

I think you can say that for every team in college football. Look at Mississippi State. They are a veteran football team on both sides of the football and have a quarterback that caught lightning in a bottle.

Oregon has a quarterback that could be a Heisman Trophy winner. That’s never happened. Florida State’s bent every ethical line possible, and has a special quarterback (on the field), which has happened only two other times in the program’s history.

And all of these teams — minus the Seminoles — have lost a game.

Outside of Alabama, who is still playing in a different league than just about everybody else from a program-building perspective, it’s always going to take a special year.

But I’ll go on the record: I think Notre Dame will be in next year’s playoff.

 

onward2victory: Last week’s mailbag I pointed out that Brian Kelly team’s have struggled in 3 areas:
1. Special teams
2. Turnovers
3. Not matching energy of the opponent.

(Editing…) So after watching the Northwestern game, where ND was terrible in all 3 of these areas AGAIN, I was wondering if you wanted to change your answer at all?

Not sure what would suffice, Onward. An apology? Your question was certainly well-timed. And obviously the field goal game is a mess. As are turnovers this season.

But I’m not sure I’m ready indict a head coach for continual issues, especially since it’s not completely true. Notre Dame was one of the best turnover teams in the country in 2012. They were also a Top 25 team in turnovers lost in 2013 as well. (Even with punching bag Tommy Rees.) They’ve been terrible in 2011 and 2014, but not the other three seasons.

And I’ll still say that “matching energy” is a ridiculous thing to try and measure. Notre Dame started fast against Northwestern — Golson running for a big touchdown on a perfect offensive drive. They had a nice opening drive against ASU. But playing tight games with teams that don’t look even on paper is a thing that’s existed at Notre Dame ever since it was a national showcase program. It’s the game circled on every opponent’s schedule — just check out how many Louisville fans will be there today.

Ultimately, the Irish have found painful — but ultimately universal — ways to lose games. So, I’m agreeing with you on special teams. Partially with you on turnovers. And not buying what you’re selling on “energy.”